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How to get thrifty with a chicken

I can’t tell you a lie. James and I are really horrible at eating leftovers. Whether it’s from a restaurant or delicious food made right here at home, both of us are horrible at facing that same flavor combination the next day.

I’ve found a way to combat that though, when it comes to chicken. The secret to using a chicken (or two, depending on the size of your family) is to prepare it first at the least common denominator recipe, which in most cases means soup.

What led me to this epiphany is a recipe in the New Braunfels Smokehouse Cookbook, whose famous chicken and dumplings I’ve waxed on poetically about before. The recipe calls for you to cook the chicken in a pot with dehydrated onion and cumin, salt, and pepper, effectively making your own stock – which the recipe goes on to turn into a gravy for the chicken and dumplings. Where it separates from most soup recipes though, is that it calls for you to shred the chicken and add it back in, after the dumplings have had a chance to cook up.

When we’d eaten our NBS (New Braunfels Smokehouse) delights, I had a plate full of shredded chicken left over – that because of their method, was not committing us to a week’s worth of chicken and dumplings. (Come on, we all love chicken and dumplings, but 2 meals in a week is more than enough!)

So I froze most of the leftover gravy and dumplings for a future date, kept a little back for one day of leftovers, and then started to figure out what I was going to do with all that delicious chicken.

Do you know how easy it is to make dinner when the protein portion is already figured out?!

First up on the agenda, shredded chicken tacos. I lightly fried the corn tortillas like we do back in San Antonio while enough of the chicken reconstituted in a can of V8 juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and can of green chiles.

When the chicken was hot and deliciously moist, and the tortillas had just the right amount of give and crunch, I brought them together with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, and a little lime. We made a side dish of brown rice cooked in pollo y tomate bouillon and refried beans.

The next night, we had leftover chicken and dumplings. The third night, we had chicken enchiladas.

A few weeks later, I did the same thing again. Only instead of making chicken and dumplings, I made chicken noodle soup. I didn’t add the chicken back until we had our individual bowls ready to serve, leaving us with more than enough chicken to enjoy more tacos, and chicken sandwiches with fresh tomato, lettuce, mayo, and crispy fried bacon. Another night we had barbecue chicken sandwiches, heating up the shredded chicken with barbecue sauce and then tossing it on hamburger buns.

The next time you want chicken soup, stew, or dumplings, pull that chicken yourself, and reserve the majority of it. We ate the entire week off a $4.50 chicken, and fresh vegetables and bread we got at the farmer’s market.

The moral of the story: Leftovers don’t have to be a drag.

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]How to get thrifty with a chicken – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

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Wednesday 1st of September 2010

Howdy! Great chicken tips! Thanks a bunch!

Can the New Braunfels Smokehouse Cookbook be the only Texas cookbook not in my possession? How can this be? Thanks for the tip!


Sunday 29th of August 2010

Great idea!! We love leftovers but this is leftovers extraordinaire. BTW - the photos are gorgeous!!


Saturday 28th of August 2010

I only wish I had more leftovers to play with! My husband LOVES leftovers for lunch for work the next day. Add that to having two grown stepchildren who are in and out it seems like I rarely have anything more left. I think I need to start roasting two chickens at a time. Or bigger chickens! :-)


Friday 27th of August 2010

I feel horrible admitting as well how much I hate leftovers. Not sure why but my life would much easier if I thought through using a main ingredient throughout the week for other meals. Great ideas.


Friday 27th of August 2010

I love making soup from leftover chicken! We once went to a friend's house for dinner. She served roast chicken. I asked what she would do with the carcass, she said she would throw it away. I asked if I could take it home, she said no. I was so disappointed! LOL. Anyway, that's just my illustration of how much I love getting a second night out of a chicken. This chicken and dumplinga looks like a winnnnnner!